Volumetric gray matter measures of amygdala and accumbens in childhood overweight/obesity

Gabor Perlaki*, Denes Molnar, Paul A.M. Smeets, Wolfgang Ahrens, Maike Wolters, Gabriele Eiben, Lauren Lissner, Peter Erhard, Floor van Meer, Manfred Herrmann, Jozsef Janszky, Gergely Orsi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives Neuroimaging data suggest that pediatric overweight and obesity are associated with morphological alterations in gray matter (GM) brain structures, but previous studies using mainly voxel-based morphometry (VBM) showed inconsistent results. Here, we aimed to examine the relationship between youth obesity and the volume of predefined reward system structures using magnetic resonance (MR) volumetry. We also aimed to complement volumetry with VBM-style analysis. Methods Fifty-one Caucasian young subjects (32 females; mean age: 13.8±1.9, range: 10.2–16.5 years) were included. Subjects were selected from a subsample of the I.Family study examined in the Hungarian center. A T1-weighted 1 mm3 isotropic resolution image was acquired. Age- and sex-standardized body mass index (zBMI) was assessed at the day of MRI and ~1.89 years (mean±SD: 689±188 days) before the examination. Obesity related GM alterations were investigated using MR volumetry in five predefined brain structures presumed to play crucial roles in body weight regulation (hippocampus, amygdala, accumbens, caudate, putamen), as well as whole-brain and regional VBM. Results The volumes of accumbens and amygdala showed significant positive correlations with zBMI, while their GM densities were inversely related to zBMI. Voxel-based GM mass also showed significant negative correlation with zBMI when investigated in the predefined amygdala region, but this relationship was mediated by GM density. Conclusions Overweight/obesity related morphometric brain differences already seem to be present in children/adolescents. Our work highlights the disparity between volume and VBM-derived measures and that GM mass (combination of volume and density) is not informative in the context of obesity related volumetric changes. To better characterize the association between childhood obesity and GM morphometry, a combination of volumetric segmentation and VBM methods, as well as future longitudinal studies are necessary. Our results suggest that childhood obesity is associated with enlarged structural volumes, but decreased GM density in the reward system.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0205331
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2018


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